Musings from the Merse
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Back in the Merse on a gorgeous un Fish like Autumnal day. The crossing was dead calm but the journey from Stranraer more traumatic than expected. Huttonian had the choice of driving one of the cars himself in solitary splendour and avoid being encarred with the 3.92 year old and the 4 monther. But after a rush to Langholm in expectation of a lush tea at the transport caff and finding it closed he unwisely opted to swap cars with the wife travel with the senior daughter and the two children who had a period of 'meltdown' simultanously. A 5 month girl has the most tremendous lungs which she exercised at close range and high volume for 30 minutes (for no apparent reason)-not helped by Mr P yelling at her to shut up at higher pitch and even higher decibel count. A period of quiet is now called for. But unlikely to be answered positively.

I can share with all bloggees this handsome signed photograph of the (in)famous Michael Fish OBE. Why did he send a photo to Huttonian I hear you ask given the unflattering comments posted on the rant? He didn't. I am endebted (?) to a Norn Ironer for this portrait. We will never see his like again in the Weather Centre.
Saturday, October 30, 2004

Another way to getcheap secretarial work in Hutton. Not yet 4 he is a dab hand at geekery-a real child of the millenium
Forecast good; ferries running; so its off to Hutton and a farewell to Norn Iron until Christmas. And then to the things that matter and a lot of stuff coming up very soon-the school, the village hall, the local plan-we will do our best to keep you informed.
Friday, October 29, 2004

A nice peaceful Mourne scene to mark the end of our time in Norn Iron. The Glen river tumbling down Slieve Donard.
The illness of Yasser Arafat has touched us in Newcastle. Huttonian was asked by BBC Norn Iron to do a live interview to coincide with the Good Morning Ulster programme-at 8am or so. The BBC have a thing about using ordinary phones-the sound geeks don’t think the quality is good enough so a radio car was sent down complete with a young lady technician. It parked beside the sea and after some difficulty hooked on to the Satellite for the 30-mile transmission to Belfast. The transmission broke every time the car door was closed and I got quite wet from the penetrating rain blown in by a strong Nor’ Easterly. I am not sure about the sound quality when we got going-what with the roar of the waves, the passing traffic, the drumming rain and the howling wind. Anyhow Kate theTechnician seemed happy although she was a bit nervous after I had told her that the place we were parked was under water at the past two high tides.

Better than a previous away fixture of about two years ago. I was then sent a taxi by the BBC to go to their studio in Downpatrick-in a tourist complex apparently. I had to direct the driver who had never been so south before and not surprisingly the ‘ST Patrick Centre’ was closed at 7-15am. A sleepy janitor asked aggressively who had told me that the BBC had a studio in his building. ‘The BBC’ I replied! He reluctantly let me in and took me upstairs to a room, which was said to contain the BBC telephone. The door was locked and the combination lock jammed. So I had to use his phone and could have stayed at home after all. I left the centre overhearing the janitor, on his phone, making an outrageously inflated claim for the use of his phone and for his services as an intermediary.

Since then and especially at the time of the Iraq War I have had a number of telephone interviews in Hutton-no suggestion of a radio car or a lift to the nearest BBC studio. On those occasions the BBC, in their introduction on air implied that they were talking to me in Norn Iron. In their philosophy Norn Iron ‘experts’ have no credibility unless they are speaking from within the physical confines of the Six Counties’ and to hell with the sound quality.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Paxton farmer's wife aims for Westminster is a headline on today's Berwickshire

BERWICKSHIRE SNP has announced that Paxton farmer's wife Aileen Orr is to be the party's Westminster candidate for the next general election.
Convenor Alex Thomson said at a meeting held in Kelso on Sunday, "We wanted a local candidate to represent the SNP, someone with local knowledge of the problems and concerns of the people of the Borders. Someone who relished the challenge, and we feel Aileen has the right qualifications and attitude to take up the fight for a Borders voice in Westminster." Aileen Orr has been a member of the SNP for 34 years, joining at school and remaining an activist through college and university. As well as her interest in politics, Aileen spent most of her youth playing with the Massed Border Pipe Band and was one of the first women to play the pipes within a Burns Club. In addition, she fought for equal pay and career advancement within the banking and insurance industry. Mrs Orr said at Sunday's meeting: "I am delighted to be chosen as candidate for this constituency. With the support of Alex Salmond and the whole SNP team, I hope the people of the Borders take time to come and meet us, ask questions and use their vote."
28 October 2004

Mrs Orr is the chairman of the Hutton School Action Group. The SNP does not seem to have a great following amongst Borderers but you never know.

The East coast is under constant threat of erosion-these defences were put up to halt the process and were under massive waves for two hours last night.A combination of Easterly gales, a spring tide and Mr Fish's farewell party appears to have been responsible

This is the result of Mr Fish's farewell party. The Harbour Inn (15 metres above the sea) has part of its car park and fence demolished.Two fishing boats sank in the harbour beryond.
Our neighbour in Norn Iron is a former National BBC Weather man. He went over to London for Mr Fish's farewell party. It must have been last night as we enjoyed a tremendous gale with a very high tide plus lashing rain-worthy of Mr F in his prime. Talk about going out in style. A local shop keeper said that it was 'touch and go' at midnight as the fierce East wind blew the sea over the protecting wall up to the entrance of his shop but the tide turned just in time to avoid a major flood. Likewise the fact that we live up a lane about 40 yards from the sea saved our cottage from a soaking but seaweed and debris nearly reached our garden gate. Another very high tide is due about noon but the wind has moderated and the sun is making an attempt to show itself.

In the meanwhile news from Hutton indicates balmy autumnal weather. So we actually look forward to our return to the Merse on Saturday. Hopefully Mr Fish's long lie in and persistent hangover will keep him away from his broomstick.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004

By popular demand-the Mournes.

Thankgoodness we are not crossing to Stranraer today.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
The Belfast bloggee has commented on two recent blogs as follows:

The question of fairies is really not whether you believe in them but whether you acknowledge their existence.

Your German friend's comments lead neatly to the subject of water, particularly Norn Iron water that is not pre-used.

Norn Iron has not fallen victim to the dreaded Council Tax and still maintains the old "rating" system, once known as "Consolidated Rates", which theoretically covers the cost of water charges. But no more. The folks who live on the hill, our erstwhile politicians (whatever did happen to them?) have now decided otherwise and now plan to introduce a separate charge for water. This is the consequence of living in a country which rains for 364 days a year and has a water shortage for 363 of those.

The populace is up in arms, "what do we pay rates for?" they cry as one. Well, the answer partly lies in a leafy suburb of North Belfast where, yesterday, two men in yellow florescent jackets drew a square in blue with the letter "W" in the centre in the middle of the avenue. At 8.00 am today, a lorry, a digger, three vans and six men in fluorescent jackets descended on the small blue square on the road, smoked cigarettes and had a meeting while standing around and pointing at the square. Then they attacked the blue square with machinery for a few minutes before stopping for tea, sandwiches and cigarettes. Two men wearing suits and carrying clip boards arrived in another van, had a cup of tea and stood around the hole that used to be the blue square.

The men in suits left, as did some of the fluorescent men in two of the vans while the remaining fluorescent men finished their tea and spoke into their mobile telephones. Three more vans arrived, a big one and two small ones, and the occupants stood about discussing the hole in the road that used to be a blue square. Another lorry arrived with more fluorescent men and machinery and some of the vans left. There was a lot of noise and a flurry of activity for a brief period, then calm while they smoked some more cigarettes.

The men in suits returned with their clipboards and stood over a shiny new piece of tarmac that used to be a hole in the road but was previously a blue square with "W" in the centre. It is now 12.18 pm and everybody and everything has departed leaving a new piece of road no bigger than 2" metres just outside.

Thankyou Mr B.

A German friend on a visit to Norn Iron tells us that there is a campaign in Germany and elsewhere in the EU to ban men passing water in the standing position. It is not such much a feminist issue of bringing males down to a female's level as it were but more an indication of a reluctance by the fair sex to clean up the early am dribble around the loo seat where the overnight aiming mechanisms have malfunctioned. Apparently you can now acquire pre programmed toilet seats which when lifted say in a stern female 'Madame Correction' voice :' Put me down and sit on me. Now!' in all the working languages of the EU. A TV campaign is backed with a free tee shirt carrying the slogan' Real Men do it Sitting Down' And there is even a bill going through the European Parliament provisionally titled: 'EURONATE-A Pee for Europe' making it obligatory to wee sitting down even in the privavcy of your own homes. This will be a real nuisance in the Borders-the Sheriff'sCourt in Duns will be flooded with cases and half the toilets in the Merse will be cordonned off as crime scenes.

Research by the Hutton Think Tank reveals tells that the Irish invented the loo seat and 500 years later the English put a hole in it. They needn't have bothered.
Monday, October 25, 2004
The BBC are at it again despite the departure of MR Fish. Dire warnings of great gales on Wednesday or Saturday. Trees uprooted. Disruption to transport-not surprisingly with trees all over the place. Structural damage (from the same trees?) Covering their goose pimpled backsides once more so as ' Well, I warned you' can once again be the Corporations unofficial motto. Well I hope they are right about some breeze midweek as we will be HSSing on Saturday-Hutton bound. Looking after the 4month and the 3.92 year old is hard enough without worrying about filling paper bags.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
The following extract from Euan Robson's weekly Mound of Information column indicates how affordable housing continues to be one of the topics of the moment. Warm has now been added to affordable as a key element.

"THE supply of affordable, warm housing is an issue of critical importance in Roxburgh and Berwickshire. My colleagues, Michael Moore, Archy Kirkwood, Jeremy Purvis and I have regular discussions with housing providers. There are a number of inter-related issues at present that are affecting the much needed supply of new homes. The first group might be described as development constraints. The most obvious of these is of course the land available on which to build. It has first to be identified as acceptable in planning terms and then secured. Scottish Borders Council’s draft Local Plan is of course key to local housing development and is entering the final stage of its consideration. In terms of land, just recently, at our prompting, the Scottish Executive made about £1.5 million available to Eildon Housing Association for land purchase for land banking purposes. The majority of the resource will be used in the central Borders but it will over time reduce the pressure on social housing there and indirectly in Berwickshire. Berwickshire Housing Association has developments in hand at Gunsgreen in Eyemouth and others may follow elsewhere in the town in due course. Another development constraint is the ability of local services to accept or to sustain new housing. For example, Scottish Water’s waste water treatment works are under pressure or at capacity in many parts of Berwickshire and the Borders. The work on the scheme on the coastline from Eyemouth to Cockburnspath has solved that problem in the communities served. Work is due in Duns in 2005. In Duns there is a queue of important projects awaiting the expansion of Scottish Water’s facilities including the new buildings to replace the Sue Ryder facility at Marchmont. However, there is a long way to go in a number of our villages and little prospect of undoing 30 years of water infrastructure under investment in short order. The other type of issue is of course financial resources. Happily more money is available via Communities Scotland for social housing. Local housing associations are constantly trying to maximise their share and have my backing in so doing. Scottish Water is currently consulting upon its proposed investment plan post the current period ending in 2006. Up until then, a total of £1.8 billion will have been put into water quality and waste water treatment. Communications investment can stimulate housing development and the near £60 million spent on the A1 will in time open eastern Berwickshire to more development as of course would an east coast mainline rail commuter service with a station at Reston. '

Paxton is not mentioned.


Decommissioning of old IRA weaponery is a big issue here. This ancient fighter long concealed in a bog is up and about again-known amongst the Provos as Grey Stealth it was long piloted by Rhoire Kavanagh-the famous Green (Bog) Baron. What the Democratic Unionists will make of this new display of IRA air power is anyone's guess but I suspect Ulster will still be saying 'No'
Saturday, October 23, 2004
No wind. Calm blue sea. Hazy sunshine, towering Mournes. Drives going dead straight, iron shots peppering the flag, putts dropping, opponent bemused. Not a hen in sight. Carpe diem. You mighn't get another day like this. And another whole week in the Elysian Fields of Norn Iron before the next reality check.

Katy Beth admiring the Mournes in her Autumn collection.

One of the better Millenium Stones.A hunk of granite from the Mournes with the mountains beyond-Delamont Park, Co.Down

The old poem goes : The Mournes stand round in splendour, the mountain air like wine, when Donard doffs his night cap I know the day'll be fine. Much more accurate than the late Mr Fish. This is Donard donning his night cap.
Friday, October 22, 2004
The Mourne Observer really is a waste of rainforest. 80 plus pages of very little. The website is more interesting with articles from long lost editions and stories more riveting than you would expect to find now. Apparently the fairies used to feature strongly in the paper-and not so long ago either. I am sure there are stil mountainy men who believe in the Wee Folk but probably keep quiet about it-they would enjoy the three tales below which are as credible as most stuff found in the gossip columns of the tabloids

Fairies Kept Man on Tullyree Hill All Night:
Mr McCarthy first related the story of a man named Paddy Rodgers of Dromena, whose one and only encounter with the fairies was anything but a pleasant one. Mr Rodgers, it appears, was on Tullyree Hill when night fell and a lot of the wee folk gathered round him and led him around and around the hill about ten times. They danced round him and kept laughing at his plight, as he was unable to find his way off the hill. Then in the early hours a cock crew, the fairies scattered and Mr Rodgers was able to fins his way home.
"I have often heard it said," added Mr McCarthy, "that if you take off your coat and turn it inside out, the fairies will leave you, but Paddy mustn’t have known about that." A married man, with a family, Mr Rodgers died about 24 years ago. (i.e. 1935)

Never Cut Fairy Thorns!
We’ve all heard the old saying "Never cut a fairy thorn," and Mr McCarthy gave me two instances which go to prove that this advice should never be treated as a joke.
There was the unfortunate case of Mick McCabe, of Tullyree, who went to uproot a fairy bush. Out jumped a hare, which ran round to the side of the hill. Mick turned his head sideways to look after it- and his head remained in that position until he died, about 40 years ago. (i.e. 1940)
Then Mr McCarthy told the story of Micky McCartan, who lived on a neighbouring farm. Of the devil-me-care type, Micky insisted on cutting away a fairy thorn despite pleadings by his mother not to touch it. Even as he started to saw the bush his mother kept pulling him back by the coat-tail. On he went, but suddenly blood appeared on the saw blade and Micky, despite his insistent boldness was petrified. He stopped sawing- and just in time, before doing irreparable damage to the thorn and consequently no ill befell him.
Owen Kelly, who lived on the Dublin Road, outside Castlewellan, was another who suffered for his foolishness in cutting down fairy bushes, despite warnings by neighbours. That night and also the next day, none of the cows in the byre was able to get up. He was advised to repair the bushes as best he could and with scutching tow he tied the branches back on the bushes after which all his cows returned to normal.
"I remember seeing the bushes being tied up myself, " said Mr McCarthy. " That was about 60 years ago." ( i.e. 1920)

I am off to find a rainbow-you never know your luck and a crock of gold is not taxable.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
News from the front: BT plan to remove Hutton's only public phone box. This is is a sudden last minute afterthought as the Hutton box was not on the original list for chopping. The Paxton one is being kept going, although uneconomic, as a 'social box' Not that BT is expecting parties to be held in it but it is just outside the Cross Inn and would occasionally be useful for summoning a taxi when too flutered to drive or for a long kip if the wife has barred the door against the boozing husband returning at an unsocial hour. But Hutton has no pub and therefore no need, apparently, for a social box. Nevermind that most people in the village have not got mobiles (some of which don't work anyhow or are marginal except when leaning out of a window pointing south) Never mind that part of Hutton is at the furthest point from the nearest sub-exchange and breakdowns are frequent. So now to no shop, no pub, nearly no school, no gas, no broadband, no digital reception, add no phone box. Unless locals can make such a stink that BT think again. One hopes that the Community Council is on the case.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It was fascinated by Mr P

How to amuse a 3.91 year old on a wet day in Norn Iron? Take him to an aquarium an d find him a seal.
Nothing gives the flavour of popular concerns better than the letters column of the local paper. In this case the Down Recorder published in the local county town of Downpatrick. And one constant controversy in Norn Iron is marches-particularily 'Loyalist' ones and especially those who insist on exercising their 'ancient rights' of parading in their finery-sashes, suits and bowler hats through nationalist areas. Triumphalist reaffirmations of being top dogs in a divided society celebrating battles long ago. A recent march in Ballynahinch revived all these passions. The letter published below is just one in a letter column stuffed full of irate communications finely divided between pro matches-the Orange men and the antis-the Nationalists. This one at least seeks to find common ground-not easy in Norn Iron

SIR, — Earlier this year, Newcastle had two additional opposing, and opposed, flag waving parades. This month, Loyalists carrying flags came to Ballynahinch. A handful of Sinn Fein people carrying posters also came to oppose them.Such activity does nothing to defend the Union or promote Irish unity. It has quite the opposite effect. It also harms the commercial interests of towns and damages relationships between residents. Ignoring such consequences, it deliberately increases sectarian tensions — to suit the electoral purposes of Sinn Fein and DUP.Two hundred years ago, Presbyterian leaders in Ireland sought to overthrow English rule and establish self-government. To this end they formed the United Irishmen, with an idealistic aim of uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.The enterprise ended in disastrous military defeat, with increased distrust between Protestants and Catholics. On the night before the 1798 battle of Ballynahinch, the South Down Catholic militia deserted Betsy Gray. They went home, leaving her and the Protestant insurgents to their fate. To some, cowardly treachery. To others realistic prudence, considering the superiority of English forces sent against poorly equipped and badly organised rebels.In the past 30 years, fratricidal murder and violence by the IRA and Loyalists caused even greater distrust and division. Sinn Fein has done absolutely nothing to unite Ballynahinch people in any common purpose whatsoever. Instead they constantly try to provoke conflict.About five years ago, under leadership of Aidan Carlin and Francie Branniff, they formed a local Sinn Fein branch and dishonoured Betsy Gray’s memory by naming it after her. Absurdly they now attack the Regeneration Committee. Unlike Sinn Fein, this cross community group, while scrupulously avoiding party politics, is successfully promoting the overall interests of Ballynahinch, and, moreover, doing it by following Betsy Gray’s aim of uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in common purpose.By totally ignoring both flag and poster carrying brigades, Ballynahinch residents also clearly demonstrated their choice — and their choice should be respected.Yours etc.,(Name with held by Huttonian-but clearly written by a Catholic if the name is anything to go by-as it normally is around here!)
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

This is the photoof Rita's grave which failedto load on to yesterday's rant. Enjoy
I sense a number of Merse bloggees are getting restive over the current preoccupations with Norn Iron, Golf and family. 'Sorry'-taking a leaf out ofMr Blair's book as it were. But Norn Iron is where we are at. And news from H and P is scarce at the moment on the great issues of the hour: the school, the village hall, the low cost affordable housing, the unaffordable housing in the Orchard-except for the cheapee 'Hutton', Sheriff of Duns etc etc. The Hutton Think Tank has had its phone disconnected so that source of creative wisdom is no longer available. If any bloggees anxious for local action could e-mail their concerns via the comment e-mail facility that would help-but no news-no comment to vary the FT ad. old_greywolf2000@yahoo.co.uk (under score between old and grey)

Little enough going on here at the minute. There is a wee depression stationary over Norn Iron with its epicentre on the 3rd tee of the Royal Co Down-makes for rather a short round so I am not risking a soaking. So back to keeping the 3.9 month old amused.

Who was Rita. Not an abandoned baby one hopes? A well loved dog? Buried wheres she fell after worrying her last sheep? Mourne Sheep are very laid back and worrying them is tough work especially for an effete townee mongrel.
Monday, October 18, 2004

A cow jam. A common occurence in the Mourne Mountains. We followed thislot for a mile or two at cow pace-no chance of getting past. The farmer's two pastures were miles apart. He was in no hurry. Thank goodness we were n't. The only acknowledgement of our Borders like patience was a sullen back and a surly nod. Strangers not welcome here and why should they be-blocking the roads with their filthy cars.

Something snapped. Too many sleepless nights-lets leave the baby somewhere really nice and drive away into the sunset! Just joking. For the moment
The splendid Mr B, the Belfast bloggee has commented that he agrees some people in Norn Iron have forgotten why Ulster still says no. He adds

"Gaius Petronius, a scribe and philosopher favoured by the Roman Emperor Nero penned the following in AD 66:

"We trained very hard
but it seemed
that every time
we were beginning
to form into teams
we would be reorganised.

I was to learn later in life
that we tend to meet
any new situation
by reorganising
and a wonderful method it can be
for creating the illusion of progress
whilst producing confusion,
inefficiency and demoralisation"

Unfortunately, Petronius fell out of favour with Nero and took his own life the very next year."

Not many people round here remember that


Loving hug or stranglehold? KB is not too sure

According to F.Knowall and G.Cognescenti in their seminal work : The Wild Fruit of Ulster.(Green Books. London. 1876. Pps 1234-1267) this is the best place for Blackberries in Norn Iron. Huttonian is reluctant to identify it further so as to avoid a mad rush. Suffice it to say that the bushes are groaning with ripe fruit up to late October.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
A Norn Iron bloggee has contributed the following:

"Sectarianism and bigotry, while part of life in Norn Ireland, can also provide much unintended mirth. You will be aware that wall paintings and murals give a good indication of where you might find yourself in this divided city/country and very useful they can be.

In the bonfire season, any available wall is used to provide directions and advice to the unwary traveller, for example, "***** **** Off" generally hits the spot. **

In North Belfast there is a Loyalist enclave named Tigers Bay. Picture the scene. Several large, beery, shaven headed, tattooed men sporting chunky gold necklaces and bracelets (a uniform of sorts) gathered around a newly painted sign "Welcome to Loyalist Tiggers Bay". Bless!

One wonders whether Christopher Robin, Eyeore and Piglet have taken refuge in Pooh's safe house on the corner.

The sign was later painted out by a more literate devotee."

Thankyou Mr B.

Some one wrote a book about the Lebanon entitled 'Tribes with Flags' This could be an apt description of Ulster-or at least 6 out of the 9 counties of that ancient province. The southern part of the pretty village of Dundrum is festooned with Union Jacks, crosses of St George, Loyalist style with the Red Hand of Ulster in the middle of the cross-and a recent addition this -a wee union jack in the left hand top corner- a sort of belt and braces security blanket. And amongst this great loyalist bunting sags the odd Orange flag of the local Loyal Orange Lodge. The other tradition content themselves with decorating the nationalist areas with the Irish tricolor indicating the aspiration for a united Ireland-the colours of the Tricolor will also be used for the pavement verges sometimes almost merging into the red, white and blue flagstones favoured bythe other lot. Not so common nowadays, is the old slogan: 'Ulster Says No! 'or brought up to date-'Ulster Still says no' Most people have seemingly forgotten the question.

** Fill in the *s for a small prize Blog. ed. But keep it clean
Saturday, October 16, 2004

This is the apple tree which Huttonian used to camp under 50 plus years ago. It is the only tree left in the old family orchard which is now yet another 'Orchard' development. Sadly the older generation sold the 'Big House' on the sea front and the orchard which went with it. We were left with the coachman's cottage.It is not as big a building plot as the Paxton Orchard but more unpleasant with a collection of ungainly 'Town houses'. The preservation of the tree was a hard gained concession from the developers and a condition for planning permission. Doubtless a digger will accidentally back into it if it is obstructing a building plot. It was a bumper apple crop but I suspect the last one from this ancient tree.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Sectarianism is still alive and well in Norn Iron. It is not surprising given the still mostly segregated educational system. The government schools are secular and open to children from any background and faith. Most Catholic children however opt for schools administered under the aegis of the Catholic Church leaving many of the government establishments de facto Protestant schools. Thus bigotry and suspicion, which can be imbibed with the mother’s milk, can unwittingly be sustained by the educational system. There are now integrated schools-a growing number in fact-including primary and secondary in Newcastle. They cater for both Catholics and Protestants but it is only (mostly) the ‘middle’ ‘professional’ classes who send their children there. Sectarianism needs to be tackled at a lower social level to have any chance of it being effectively eradicated.

Huttonian went to a private ‘preparatory’ school in Co Armagh. Founded by two English army officers it catered for the sons of professional families hoping to get their offspring into English Public fee paying schools (Public equalling Private in the curious English middle class speak) or failing that the top independent schools this side of the water.There sectarianism was not only flourishing it was positively encouraged to the apparent delight of the well heeled Norn Iron establishment parents. (The school turned out two future Prime Ministers of the province and a load of eminent jurists and senior ‘Orangemen’ Free Masons to a man) On the 12th of July-the annual commemoration of the battle of the Boyne of vivid memory (fought as recently as 1689)-the head boy (One glorious year Huttonian himself) played the part of King William –the saviour of Protestant Ulster and the school wimp (usually classified as a ‘spastic’ in the school boy jargon of that day) played King James –the Catholic Monarch. Stirring songs were chanted including such riveting ditties as ‘Beads and Beads and Holy Beads, we will stuff them up with rye; we will get some rope and hang the Pope on the Twelfth of July’ Or as an encore: ‘Up the long ladder, down the short rope-God save King Billy, to Hell with the Pope’ It was only after a few years at a posh English public school did I see how absurd and silly this all was-a symptom of a ruling class feeling under constant siege from the Fenian B*******. And I wonder how much I was influenced in my attitude to the ‘other community’ by my own family’s attitudes. One of my aunts with a double doctorate from London and Wales who had lived on ‘the mainland’ most of her working life once told me that she could smell a Catholic at 50 paces! She would never have used 'Fenian', 'Papist' would been her choice of epithet. But that is over 50 years ago and the 'peace process' has changed quite a lot of that. One hopes.

One of Huttonian's army of helpers. They are employed to look at the press to extract items of interest for the Blog. She is pictured scanning the Berwickshire's coverage of Iraq
Thursday, October 14, 2004
The Berwickshire has the edge over the Mourne Observer in most areas but it would be hard for Sheriff Kevin ofDuns to compete with the local Norn Iron courts with regard to some of the cases reported in the Six Counties. Sectarian Behaviour is a crime-rather like offences under the Race Relations Act on the Mainland (Great Britain) A Downpatrick man was bound over for two years for calling someone a 'Fenian b****** (The asterisks are the paper's) Not, note A Fenian b*****' He was apparently was 'not himself' having being taking a 'range of medications' for some time. He seems to be regarded as a bit of a local nuisance as 15 neighbours came forward to level complaints against him regarding a number of offences which were 'not divulged in open court'. The defendant complained he could remember nothing as he was 'involuntarily intoxicated' (Someone had bought him a drink against his will?) The Magistrate was not impressed and said that the behaviour was grossly offensive. We are at least spared that sort of thing in the Merse.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Picture the scene. Huttonian on the first tee. New Ball. Point selected 240 yards down glistening green fairway. Course empty. Not an aggressive hen in sight. Bliss. A split second later a howling draft and horizontal rain. Mountains gone-target point disappeared behind curtain of moisture. Run for it. Lost car keys-wrong pocket-soaked and shopping yet to do. Umbrella even the special blow through one quite useless in these conditions. Pavements blocked by wet people hurrying head down-collisions inevitable-muttered apologies and angry snarls. Surprising sight of an elderly lady zooming along on her zimmer frame, milking the wind, overtaking most of the traffic but she will never make it home against such a tempest. One important mission: replace the £3.75 wall clock destined for the grandson's room. It is to encourage him not to leave his bed before 6-30 am. But it lost 3 hours every 185 minutes so he dashed out thinking he had overslept (It was showing 10-30 having been set at 10-15 the night before) No fuss over exchange-not even mutterings of 'what can you expect for £3.75?' Soaked again en route to far parked car.

Home. No prospect of golf. Grandson to entertain with limited oppurtunities to amuse him in the off season. Long day ahead.

Test clock. This one loses 180 minutes every 181. Must return it. What do you expect for £3.75 and at least the model is consistent and will presumably be right now and then. But it is pussing down. Rewind to reel one.

'Come back Mr Fish- all is forgiven' I am tempted to say. But the words stick in my throat

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
The Berwickshire is not easily retrievable on line, has a pathetic website-and what there is there mostly dwells on the decline and free fall of Berwick Rangers. So I am indebted to a Merse rantee for the copy of an article on affordable housing drawing on the proceedings of a recent Berwickshire Area Committee. One speaker expressed the worry that once an area is zoned for development, although it may apparently be intended for cheap housing there is actually nothing to prevent the landlord from selling it to the highest bidder-a developer who is more than likely to build luxury properties out of the reach of local people. A planning officer also indicated the problems caused by the limitations of the sewerage infrastructure in many areas-Paxton being a well-known case in point. She also stated that as far as Berwickshire is concerned there is an ‘over provision’ of housing in the draft local plan.

One local architect seemed to suggest that buildings should be planned regardless of sewerage limitations in order to twist Scottish Water’s arm to put the sewerage right in areas of new development and where there is no capacity at present (Paxton being etc) Sadly any amount of arm twisting at a very senior level has done nothing to fix problems in Paxton’s existing sewerage system. The imagination boggles as to what will happen when the 18 additional houses in the Orchard –down to the last ‘Hutton’-are completed and we have a spell of wettish weather-a possibility even in the post Fish era. SW assures us that the system will cope-but as it hasn’t, at least twice, with the current number of dwellings it must be operating on the In sha’llah principle. All will be well, God Willing. But if He/She isn’t. What next? And anyhow with extremes of weather more likely under global warming She may have bigger fish to fry apart from Paxton. The architect in question’s name might then be very appropriate to the watery circumstances*
* The name is given in full on p2 of last Thursday’s Berwickshire if you really think this appalling pun is worth following up; Blog-ed
A Norn Iron bloggee has sent me a signed photograph of Mr Fish. I don't think that this is meant to be a provocative act but one of kindness. Its a nice image and Mr F is wearing a very striking tie worthy of a Channel 4 Newsreader (Snow may be an appropriate name in this context). I'll scan it on my return to Hutton and share it with other bloggees in due course.

Despite Mr F's retirement we are getting Hutton like weather here on the East wind. Murky and Autumnal. There is no Ha'ar in these parts but 'a wee mist' Everything tends to be 'wee' . Shop assistant's offer you a 'wee bag'. You are, when bristling with impatience, invited to 'wait a wee minute'. Are Norn Iron children (wee boys or wee girls) asked if they would like to do a 'wee wee' I wonder or do they spontaneously boast that they have just done a 'wee' wee wee? When responding in the affirmative a 'wee nod' is ok and if of mixed Ulster/French race a brief 'wee' oui is all that is required*.

* Enough wees-blog ed.

Huttonian was alarmed to find the following story on the BBC website. It sounds a lot of money for a small province to owe and I was wondering if my modest bills had been taken into account.

"Northern Ireland '£3bn in debt'

Continued spending on credit cards has seen debt spiralPeople in Northern Ireland owe about £3bn on credit and debt, a new report by the General Consumer Council has said.
According to the study, consumers in the province are £2,300 in debt per head of population; while four in ten struggle from time to time, or all the time, to keep up with repayments.
The Taking the Credit report said the debt per person increases to £15,300 when mortgages are included.
It also found that half of the province's consumer do not know what the letters APR stand for in a credit advertisement, while 43% have know idea what interest rate they are paying on their cards.
Speaking at the report's launch in east Belfast, Alan Walker, the council's head of consumer affairs, said debt can become a never-ending cycle of misery and despair for people.
"To deal with this we firstly need more responsible lending from the credit industry and secondly need more responsible borrowing from consumers themselves," he said.
Vital research
He added that such research was vital because it gave the council an understanding of which parts of the province were worst affected by debt.
"We will use the findings of the report to inform our contribution to the government's overindebtedness strategy to press for resources and efforts to be targeted where they're needed most.
"The Consumer Council recognises the very important role that the advice sector plays in dealing with the problems of credit and debt on a daily basis.
"Every day, the advice and community sector find themselves at the very sharp end of this problem.
"Many people here find themselves in serious financial difficulty.
"In addition, they suffer a real sense of having no way out.
"We hope that this research helps to ensure that adequate resources are made available to deal with this issue."
The report is the first recent quantitative research looking at Northern Ireland's experiences of credit and debt. "

Certainly you get a feeling of affluence around here. Norn Ironers are not a 'second hand bargain' society and rather despise buying used goods-yet the local car boot sale packs them in every Saturday and Sunday. However many of the goods on sale there are actually new if dramatically reduced in price-and one wonders how genuine the CDs and Videos are. Anything that is visibly used like toys can be got for about 10p and I wonder how some of the traders make money enough to cover their pitch rent. Perhaps they come for the craic.

I wonder how Norn Iron compares with the Merse. £2300 a head sounds a lot of negative equity until you consider the size of most peoples mortgages. I am trying to think of anyone in my daughters' generation who owes only £2300. I have come up with a blank-except, actually, one of my daughters. Having sold their house on return from forrin parts she and husband now rent. Money down the drain perhaps but not to the tune of £2300 at any one time I fancy.

Monday, October 11, 2004
Yes I have often ranted about the awefullity of supermarkets but in Norn Iron smaller shops can have their bad moments too. Perhaps people are so traumitised by the speedy efficiency of the Tesco or the Safeways that they enjoy a leisurely shop in the smaller establishments. But do they need to do it immediately in front of Huttonian?. Exhausted after battling my way through the easterly gales on the golf course (A hen- free round incidentally although I did see a few scratching around at a safe distance) I was bidden by the wife to get a loaf of wheaten, unsliced, at the Cookie Jar. I made a bad start by joining the wrong queue: there are usually three: one for those who want to buy and go away; the second for those who want to buy eventually but who would like to linger, gossip and hear the headlines again; and the third for those who are not bothered about buying but want to hear the news in detail-and buy as an afterthought. I hit the fourth line-the shortest-her and me. This was for those who are there to buy but have no idea what and do so after much thought and deliberation and item by item-the one suggesting the other-a scone, half a wheaten sliced, another scone, another wheaten but unsliced, a fruit cake, a non-fruit cake. And so on. And everytime I twitched with bearly controlled impatience the lady thought of something else and something more to say on unrelated topic. All aided and abetted by the sales assistant who had all the time in the world and had a ready contribution to make to all subjects aired including the new blue bins, the lack of a suitable bus to Downpatrick, the impending/current/past light rain, the East wind and week end plans (its Monday for good ness sake) . They are also the ones who fumble in the purse for hours pulling out p after p, find its not quite enough (£3.19 in this case) and then pay by credit card, clucking all the time. I nearly gave up in despair but feared the wrath of the wife so held out-I got my wheaten eventually but was so intent in avoiding any attempts to prolong the conversation that I forget to ask her not to slice the bread; which of course she did thus earning a Yellow card on my return home.

What does a 4 month little Anglo Aussie girl make of Norn Iron? Judgment firmly reserved?Expectations don't seem high despite the departure of Mr Fish. Despite all those sun symbols on Darren's nice smiley map it is bloody cold and misty here. Its back to Bondi for me-if I had any choice in the matter. If I could get out of this black bag I'd make a run for it.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Rant for fanatical golfers only

Royal Co Down has an unusual system of matching the golfing geography of the championship course to the purported ability of the golfer. This is apparently to avoid slow play and prevent premature death by cardiac failure.(And to keep the course clear of most females?) The Green Fees are-by the way-£110 on weekdays and £125 on Sundays-Saturday and Wednesday members only.

This is how the system works:

"From the start of the 2004 season in May the following options will be available:
White tees – length 6740 yards. A competition course available to individual matches where all male players are single figure handicaps.*
Yellow men’s tee of the day. Varying between 6300 and 6500 yards suitable for proficient golfers who can carry** the ball 175 yards off the tee.
Red ladies tee. Generally playing the course at or around the measured course of 6190 yards, par 76.
* Blue championship tees – length 7065 yards, may be made available to individual matches of men with playing handicaps of 5 or better. This course presents some highly demanding tee shots. However in testing conditions this option may be withdrawn to ensure playability of the course.
It is hoped that these options will enhance the playing experience at Royal County Down. It should be noted that the Course Marshal has the authority to ask players to move to easier tees in the event that the group’s position on the course is not maintained."

(** carry as in hit in air, not as in pocket)

You will note that not even the best of women golfers are given the option of playing the course off the back tees. What would Tigress Woods make of that. Having seen this information for the first time it is clear that Huttonian and partner were off the wrong tees yesterday and then further stressed by being chased by irate hens as well. I am keeping out of trouble and off the course today for my own safety.

A very proficient player-surely worthy of the blue tees? But taken on the No 2 course which is quite tough enough.

A summer scene in the Mournes seasonally adjusted to winter. Slieve Donard (850 metres) is on the left and is the highest mountain in Norn Iron.Newcastle is on the coast below Donard.The mountain gets its name from the Saint who lived in a cave on top. His disciples supposedly brought his food up every day taking the empties down with them. In those days the milkman only used to come twice a week so that was not too tough.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Thank goodness for the retirement of Mr Fish. A magnificent morning for golf on a magnificent course. It being a Saturday and a competition day we were put off the far back tees and with a very strong wind this was the sort of challenge Huttonian does not get at the Hirsel or Duns. Nor does he have there the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains 'sweeping down to the sea' Huttonian and his partner-one of Ireland's most famous sportsmen from the late 1940's early 50s had the whole championship course to ourselves and then made the tactical error of trying to squeeze in a few extra holes on the other course called by some sexist oldies 'The Hen Run' as it is the course mostly used by the Ladies Club-separate from the gents. Obviously. We cut in at a point where we could see no one behind us and as we were leisurely finishing off a first extra hole we heard indignant cackling behind us. Not actual Hens but a party of lady golfers who must have materialised magically or were beamed up from another dimension. Anyhow they took obvious umbrage at our obstructing their passage and we had to scurry homewards with them in hit pursuit. Fortunately distance and the wind prevented us hearing their comments.

After all this excitement we were desperate for a cup of coffee so up to the Spike Bar we went in persuit of sustenance. This is the area for those golfers who did not bring a jacket or tie with them-a sort of quarantine station or refugee holding centre. But it is Saturday. The spike bar had been incorporated into the main dining room and therefore no tie no coffee, no jacket no scone. So we had to sneak out and make our escape just ahead of a group of vengeful ladies, heavily armed with pitching wedges conduction a car to car search in the hope of finding the MEN who had cut in in front of them. Golf is no longer a safe sport.
Friday, October 08, 2004
The local weekly-The Mourne Observer is not a patch on the Berwickshire as a quality production but it has its moments. It certainly has a comprehensive, indeed exhaustive, coverage of local news items-a substantial chunk of page 7 is taken up with a large photograph and the headline ‘Noisy manhole covers disturb the peace in Dundrum’ Apparently passing lorries in the main street make the covers go ‘Clank Clunk’ in an ‘intolerable manner’ . However the matter is being investigated by the appropriate authorities and the story runs out of steam on that reassuring note. Unlike the Berwickshire the Observer has be careful to maintain a balance between the two main communities; equal coverage for Rugby and Gaelic football for instance. Football is ok as it is counted as inter communal although these distinctions are getting finer as the ‘religious divide’ blurs at the edges.. The Irish Rugby XV which draws its players from both sides of the border will have a majority of Catholics on the side as Rugby is no longer a predominantly Protestant team sport ‘down South’

The troubles are very low key and might not be apparent to the casual eye. As quiet as the Merse it often seems. But I doubt if the Berwickshire would ever need to run a story about a parcel bomb being sent to the local chairman of the District Policing Partnership. This tucked away on page 14 and only slightly more prominent than the noisy manholes. The intended victim seems to have got up the noses of extremists on both sides of the divide and even indicated that he had been previously threatened by the ‘security forces’ (By which he presumably means the former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) now replaced by the more ‘acceptable’ (that means to the nationalist community) Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Someone remarked that the two communities in Northern Ireland have one thing in common-they would like to be ruled from elsewhere-the ‘Loyalists’ by London and the ‘Nationalists’ by Dublin. At least there is now a step forward in that both sides would like to control the local parliament-thus the nationalists have de facto recognised Norn Iron as a distinct entity and the loyalists have (mostly) accepted that there is room for nationalists in the political process. There are various ifs and buts but life is too short. See future rants if you can bear to.

Every generation of Huttonian's family has been photographed on this bench in Newcastle Co Down, Norn Iron-from his grandparents in the 1920s until Mr P and KB in October 2004. I make that 5 generations.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
With Mr Fish gone the weather in Norn Iron is magnificent. So golf is on the agenda. I have ranted before about the Royal County Down Golf Club and its reputation as an unfriendly and stuffy place. I remember seeing at a number of other Irish clubs notices which read ‘Visitors welcome from other clubs except from Royal County Down’ It used to be that visitors were not allowed to use the main club house despite paying a whacking great green fee, had to change either in their cars or in a chilly tin shed with minimal facilities. When allowed into the bar they had to be accompanied by a member and be correctly garbed with jacket and tie. Now at least there is a ‘spike bar’ where jerseys are ok. The problem partly was that RCD is a well heeled club, has a huge income from American touring parties(doing 5 Irish course in a week) and does not really need to encourage casual players even at £100 plus a head. It also has a closed membership-no applications accepted and when there is a vacancy it is by invitation only.

All is now changing. The members have been invited to contribute about £1000 a head to fund a brand new visitors centre and to present a welcoming face to the great outside world. It will be hosting the Walker Cup in a few years time and probably has ambitions to attract major tournaments to a course which is routinely rated in the World’s Top Ten. Although not all members like having tournaments here as they interfere with normal golf with the course closed to allow the stars to praactice beforehand.

And a very good thing too. Huttonian will at last be assured of a warm welcome at other clubs when checking in with his clubs and the RCD logo on his club covers-something that was wise to hide in the past

Newcastle is not always like this. This is a winter scene. Summer is the same, seasonally adjusted
The same bloggee has come back with this:Graffiti isn't confined to politics and religion in Norn Iron, health issues feature quite strongly also. Following the publication in a local Sunday rag of fairly hideous shots of one of our local high profile politicians sunbathing naked, official signs advising "No topless sunbathing" were endorsed by a freelance "Hasn't Ulster suffered enough?"

Supposedly a man (at the height of the'Troubles') in the Falls Road in Belfast at 2am had a gun thrust into his back and a voice demanded 'Catholic or Protestant?' 'I I I am Jewish' he replied. 'Well' said the gun prodder 'Are n't I the luckiest Arab in Belfast tonight?' The other response might have been 'Catholic Jew or Protestant Jew?' No neutrals in those days.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004
A 'Six Counties' bloggee has commented that there is no such place as Norn Ireland. It is, he submits 'Norn Iron' . 'Dead on' as they say in these parts. I remember as a school boy in Armagh being approached by an aggressive urchin (I went to a poshish school for non urchins) He said to advancing with fists raised 'Fia Fia wee fella'. A direct translation, according to a distinguished Ulster wordsmith is 'Would you like a fight young fellow' I declined but got it none the less. Norn Iron used to be famous for the quality of its graffitti arising from the Great Divide. My favourite remains a graffitto* scribbled on a wall in Ballymena-traditionally more 'loyalist' than otherwise:
No Pope Here . Some one of another persausion had written underneath 'Lucky Old Pope' Fair comment in the circumstances of the time.

* Don't be so pedantic. Blog ed.
I knew when Mr Fish got his gong from HM the Q on her birthday that this was the gentlest of hints-on your bike mate. So it has proved. Today is his last day with the Beeb and he had a final interview with John Humphreys on the Today Programme-a befitting curtain call on a long career-40 years in the Weather Centre. When asked by JH to give his final forecast-the weather this day he replied 'I haven't a clue' So what is new Mr Fish! Anyhow I hope we can expect a dramatic change for the good although Norn Ireland is painted red on the weather map as a scene of maximum disruption. Newcastle must be a gentle pink as the sea is flat and the wind if not Zephyr like in quality is nearer a breeze than the gale we have been promised. Again.

And it won't stop me from my first sally out on the Golf Course-Royal Co Down (PBUI)

Let the BBC itself have the last word on Mr F
"Britain's longest-serving TV weatherman Michael Fish is retiring after charting more than 30 years of the nation's sunshine, showers and storms.
The moustachioed, bespectacled presenter admitted: "I'll be in tears later" as he prepared for his last stint as the BBC's most famous forecaster.
Fish revealed that he was hoping to cash in finally on the notorious gaffe for which he will always be remembered - his comments ahead of the Great Storm of 1987.
In the infamous broadcast, the weatherman declared: "Earlier on today apparently a lady rang the BBC and said she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well, don't worry if you're watching, there isn't."
The next day Britain woke up to a trail of destruction left by the worst storm in 300 years."

I rest my case
Related links
Well Mr Fish relented. Torrential rain there was but the sea was kind and the Ferry dead on time. The Merse feels very remote from Norn Ireland; we seem to have moved a world away rather than 250 miles or so. But thoughts are still with Hutton and Paxton if only for the next day or two. Before we left for Erin parts deep husky throat with good connections in Planning was on the phone to speculate over the Laird and his wish to build Affordable Housing in Paxton. Why do it the hard way challenging the local plan in a place where further development is ruled out ( and is opposed by most villagers) instead of going two miles down the road to Hutton and offering land there which is already zoned for 6 buildings? Land, he points out offered for development by the self same Laird. Any thoughts on this via the usual channels please
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Mr Fish is forecasting severe weather in Norn Ireland and Western Scotland. The Dublin ferry has already been cancelled. HSS still running but for how long. Help!

The view from the 15th Tee at the world famous Royal County Down, Newcastle, Norn Ireland. Usually a gale blowing from the sea to the left carrying the ball into deep gorse and deeper heather.
Tomorrow it is to Norn Ireland across the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, the Irish Sea via the High Speed Ferry to Belfast and on to Newcastle Co Down. Two cars necessary as the two grandchildren don't travel light. 25 days of sea air, turf fires, golf and hill walking-within reason as the 4 month baby is not a good walker. To rant will not be too easy as the phone connection is a trifle slow and there will be a lot of competition for the sole computer-two writers, an editor and a fan of Rainbow Fish. Huttonian's agents will keep him posted of Mersian developments-could be interesting as the draft local plan is meant to be finalised by the end of October so the question of affordable housing in Knowe's Close, or not, should be determined by then. And Norn Ireland is an interesting topic in its own right. And if you don't want to hear about golf turn off until 1 November.
Monday, October 04, 2004
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/communities/index.htm is an interesting link sent to me by a bloggee. But what possible relevance to here? Alert readers will note that the local laird is, in his MSP capacity, a member of the Scottish Parliament's Communities Committee. And the committee has planning matters as part of its portfolio. Given that the Laird is challenging the draft local plans prohibition of further development in Paxton post Orchard and that he has offered land for housing outwith the current provisions of this same draft local plan it could be argued that a possible clash of interests may be on the horizon if and when the Committee considers planning matters of any relevance to the Scottish Borders. I am sure as an experienced and honourable member the same thought will have occurred to him and he will be ready to declare a personal interest at the appropiate point with all the implications that this will have for participation by him on any discussion on the item in question. In accordance with the usual rules of procedure.

Apparently that old canard is quacking again. The Borders Council and the Berwick Council have been talking about a sort of merger involving partly absorbing Berwick upon Tweed into the Scottish Borders for tourism, economic development, health services and local government (What else is left?) Thus Scotland would regain by stealth what they lost through battle? Not a bad idea actually given that Berwick and the Eastern Borders are already so intertwined. Most people around here shop in Berwick, catch the train from there, many have their GP (and certainly the dentist there) and so on. Berwick Rangers is the only English football team in the Scottish League) And the dozy Borders Tourist Board would welcome an alliance with their energetic and effective colleagues in England. And the Borders would benefit from local taxes paid by the 15,000 or so Berwickers. It might however scotch(no pun intended) the imaginative proposal put forward (and still lost) by the Hutton Think Tank to make Berwick into the Capital Territory for the UK as being more central and less noisome than London. Huttonian will watch developments and report as appropriate. In the meanwhile the HTT is still looking.....
Sunday, October 03, 2004

Its hard getting garden help these days and especially as our part time help Stan the Man is fully occupied on his day job. Today however we were lucky to employ some casual labour (under the 1833 Employment of Infants Act-never repealed in the Borders). It was the last chance to mow thanks to Mr Fish's impending incontinence and our departure to Irish parts. The salary may be pitiful for infants but the rewards in term of job satisfaction and moral fibre development immeasurable

If you have got to go! Sorry Tweed Commissioners-could n't get to him in time and no public loos so far from Paxton House

The mighty Tweed and a small 3.87 year old. The Tweed must be the most underused river of its size in the UK. Given the power of the Tweed Commissioners and the riparian land owners throwing stones is one of the few recreational activities not involving catching fishes at some expense which is possible (It is probably forbidden under some ancient by law anyhow!) Any other comparable river would bu used for innocent pleasures such as sailing, canoing and commercial boating

In my youth the Rainbow meant the promise of no more rain. But in Mr Fish's case it is a trap-to lure you out of doors and then the Heavens open. Perfide Monsieur Poisson
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Pity poor Hutton School. Decision day is once more postponed until November. The excuse this time is to allow the Scottish Executive to publish its ‘Guidelines’. I suspect that the Borders educational bosses are hoping that the Guidelines come out strongly against ‘unviable’ little rural schools and in favour of the economy of scale. Thus in closing Hutton (and possibly Burnmouth as well) they can shrug off all local responsibility and put the blame on the Highheidians in the capital. ‘If only it was up to us…..force majeure..don’t blame us etc etc. It might be a bit more convincing if they had not already recommended the closing of both schools. In the meanwhile the schools operate nervously under this form of the Damoclean Sword and it would not be at all surprising if anxious parents remove their offspring anticipating the inevitable. Certainly no new parent is seriously going to contemplate committing their 6-year-old to be educated in what seems to be a doomed establishment.

On a lighter note-the courts as reported in the Berwickshire. Sheriff Kevin appears to have been given the week off but the Berwickshire District Court has leaped into the breach. A Gordon Lady (43) was up before the Beak for admitting that she ‘conducted herself in a disorderly manner, shouted swore (sic) placed the lieges in a state of fear and alarm and committed a breach of the peace’ No lieges seem to have come to actual bodily harm and the breach is not exactly specified unless shouting swearing constitutes such an offence.

It was,, I thought bad luck for Coldingham man to be punished for vandalising a cash machine outside an Eyemouth Bank. Kicking, swearing and recklessly damaging an ATM which has refused to recognise your pin number and then swallows your card seems to me to be reasonable behaviour in these stressful times. The Beak thought otherwisew £100 fine and £70 to the Bank of Scotland as compensation.

Huttonian's thoughts are turning towards the Autumn visit to Norn Ireland-to Where the Mountains of Mourne Sweep down to the Sea. Talking about the sea this picture shows the kind of marine conditions all too familiar to anyone who doubts Mr Fish's great powers-be merciful Mr F when we brave the Stranraer crossing next week. These kind of waves are ok when viewed from the shore but from the HSS Stena car ferry they are very awesome and a bit scary.
I quite enjoy the GNER trip back in a crowded train and especially one when it is only 'a slightly late running' one -in this case ten minutes. Unlike the journey down we did not have a humorous train 'Team Leader' . Today's compere put out the usual GNER speak of 'The service of Lunch' and 'Your next station stop' Going down we were advised on leaving the train to take with us our baggage, our 'children and all other items of a personal nature'. I suppose it is possible to forget your children-or even your mother and I wonder if there is a sad true tale of grief and loss on the 11.43 to be uncovered.

Today Huttonian was surrounded by Geordies all auditioning for the next series of'Auf Wiedersehn Pet' . Of all the English ethnic groups Geordies are nearest to the Irish for wit, graphic imagery and outrageous innuendo. And for the art of conversation generally. None apparently listening to the other but coming right back on any barbed comment made by any one else. They drowned out the inevitable cell phone bores who apparently can't be out of touch with their office colleagues for more than ten seconds at a time. Only once have I been privileged to be riveted by one of that ilk-she got in Edinburgh going South and spent the next forty minutes explaining in graphic detail and in a very loud voice ( apparently to an under employed work mate) how she got on with her latest boyfriend the previous night. No item of removable kit was left unremarked and a number of men travelling with me in a coach in which the traditional pin dropping would have been very noticeable decided not to leave the train at Dunbar (the first stop) as apparently she had been in a dilemma over whether to lose her bra or panties first. This was not resolved by the time we got to Berwick some 20 minutes later-the moral issues of a first date encounter were explored at some length- and the Dunbar bound, and myself had no option but to get out with the symphony unfinished. I suppose we could have gone on to Newcastle....

Any how good to be home. Greeted by an interesting Berwickshire and thirty items of junk mail. Will report further. If I am spared.
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